The powerful, moving protest from Black Players for Change before the MLS is Back Tournament opener caught attention far beyond soccer circles. It shined a spotlight on issues of racism and inequality that have dominated the conversation in America for weeks, and more than 100 members participated.
The symbolism of a raised fist, Black Lives Matter-inspired shirts and complete silence was designed to prove thoughtful conversation. Colorado Rapids striker Kei Kamara addressed as much during a recent episode of Extratime.
"We wanted to capture the one moment of all the current Black players and staff that’s inside of MLS,” Kamara said. “Can we have this one moment together so we can appreciate what it is to be Black in this league? And also to show solidarity that everything that’s going on around America and around the world, that us as MLS players and staff, we stand with what’s going on. Hopefully, change will come by us standing together and hoping one day a lot of things will change, and it'll change for the better.”
Kamara has been outspoken ever since George Floyd was killed in Minnesota, when a white police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for what was originally reported as eight minutes and 46 seconds. He’s shared personal experiences and given several interviews, drawing attention to these serious issues.
As for the pregame protest, Kamara said it included conversations with those at MLS executive levels. There was behind-the-scenes coordination to make sure the moment, captured on national TV, could be far-reaching.
“This was a peaceful, silent protest that we wanted to do,” Kamara said. “It was really about having this moment, to capture this moment for us all to appreciate who we are and for us to send a positive message out there. It was good because there were so many thoughts of should we say this, should we do this, but we felt like the group of guys … together bumping heads, trying to put something good together to make sure [it worked]. It was all about togetherness, that’s what it was.”
For more from Kamara, check out the full clip above.